Formative assessment is used to help both the teacher and the student see how successful learning is as it is happening. Formative assessment usually takes the form of short assignments or tasks that are tightly focused on a specific piece of learning. Formative assessment can help a teacher decide whether to continue focusing on that specific piece of learning. It can also help the student decide if the student has studied enough.
Although formative assessment is not by definition informal, it is the informal methods of formative assessment that can be of most use to faculty members who want to understand if and how well their students are learning specific content as a result of their pedagogical choices. According to Yorke (2003), "Informal formative assessments are assessments that take place in the course of events, but which are not specifically stipulated in the curriculum design" (p. 479). One of the most effective aspects of informal formative assessments is that they do not require much planning. They can be done in a very limited amount of time and used conditionally -- when the faculty member feels the need to gather data about how well their students are learning.
Below are descriptions about a variety of informal formative assessment techniques that can be relatively easily incorporated into most any classroom.
Examples of Formative Assessment
Yorke, M. (2003). Formative Assessment in Higher Education: Moves Towards Theory and the Enhancement of Pedagogic Practice. Higher Education, 45(4), 477–501. Retrieved from JSTOR.